House Republicans Call For Investigation Into Unutilized Mental Health Funds

House Republicans want a government watchdog to investigate how the federal government has handled unspent mental health cash, including COVID-19 emergency monies and funds used to launch the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Tuesday, claiming that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) received nearly $8 billion in COVID-19 supplemental funding, but grantees had only spent roughly half of it.

Additionally, grantees only used about $350 million of the nearly $1 billion in additional funding to launch the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in 2022.

SAMHSA, like many other agencies, received emergency funding to address the COVID-19 outbreak. Its yearly budget power for fiscal 2021 was $5.8 billion, but it also received more than $7.8 billion in additional financing under the COVID-19 supplementary program.

Republicans highlighted a SAMHSA report stating that 53 million adults in the United States had a mental illness in 2020, with 14 million adults suffering from major mental illnesses. The organization also cautioned that the COVID-19 epidemic exacerbated mental health difficulties.

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Grants to states and other grantees primarily provided the COVID funds and the funding to establish the 988 hotline.

Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) requested that the GAO look into the agency’s control over the funds and why they were taking so long to spend.

“We have concerns about the nature and pace of using these funds, as well as SAMHSA’s ability to administer and oversee this additional funding,” Rodgers and other committee leaders wrote.

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